Sunday Delivery #1 - The SLC Dunk Mailbag

AllThatAmar

Hey everyone, it's time to kick it up a notch here at SLC Dunk. Just like we can't expect to give excuses for Tyrone Corbin into his third season as the head coach . . . we can't expect to give me a pass anymore as the crazy guy at the wheel (for now) of this blog. We can extend the analogy that the Jerry Sloan of Utah Jazz blogs was Basketball John, and that the Jeff Hornacek is Andy Larsen -- who just left to go to Salt City Hoops. That makes me the Ty. And I want to keep my job. (I guess I also played the vets too much too, Clark, Yucca, Diana, Prodigal, My_Lo and Moni have written a lot over the last few months)

So, I have a big list of things that need to be done. And one of them was to start our mailbag. It's going to happen every Sunday (hopefully), and we'll attempt to answer some of your questions every week. It's a little bit different than some of the other stuff that we're doing at the blog. We have The Downbeats, and we love them. We have a bunch of other sections too, and over the last two years we've added Podcasts and Videos. There's more to come. (Like I said on twitter a while back -- this is going to be a big off-season for the Jazz *and* the Jazz fans online. SSH isn't the only blog making positive changes this summer.)

The Mailbag isn't going to interfere with the concept of the request article, that I mentioned in yesterday's Downbeat. Also we're going to have other stuff on Sunday too, this isn't the only content that will show up. For us it's not just that we want SLC Dunk to be filled with daily content 7 days a week. We also strive to bring you a variety of types of content (Jazz news, Downbeats, Audio, Video, Game threads, etc) -- and more than ever, our varied voices will be delving into different styles of content as well.

This site isn't just for the stats fans, or fans of a youth movement. This is supposed to be YOUR site, and part of making this YOUR site is to get involved and tell us what you want to see here. (Or go ahead and write your own posts -- all of us started off writing FanPosts here!)

The mailbag isn't going to be just "my" show every week, everyone will get their turn. You can even direct a question TO a specific SLC Dunk team member. And of course, you can ask your questions here on the blog, via twitter (@SLCDunk or @AllThatAmar), via e-mail (allthatamar @ gmail . com for now, we'll set up a mailbag acct later), or even smoke signal. Well, I've collected a few quick questions to start . . . so let's get down the business.

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Amar, you've been a Jazz fan for longer than some fans have been alive. List your top 5 Jazz players, and why did you pick them over others? Surprise me by putting Big Al up there.

~Barry H.

Hey Barry,

Thanks, I'm old. I get it. Jokes aside I think my list is going to be pretty similar to a lot of other Jazz fans regardless of age. It would be a harder list if it was Top 5 players I've seen in person, or something like that. Or Top 5 UTAH Jazz players, but I've looked at the roster a lot for the older teams so I'm kinda up on those old guys. (I even have a spreadsheet of just birthdays for all the Jazz players ever) But if I had to pick 5 guys (with no issues of era, or position), they would be:

  • Karl Malone -- I wouldn't have been a basketball fan if I didn't live in Los Angeles during the Showtime era and saw Magic Johnson doing all kinds of amazing things on the court. And I wouldn't have been a Jazz fan if it wasn't for The Mailman dunking all over A.C. Green and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar back in the late 80s. Having no ties to the state of Utah I followed the Jazz because I absolutely loved how Karl played. He played hard, and he went to the rim hard. As a kid watching a game where speed and grace were the old way (Magic, Dr. J, etc), his overt power and force made him stand out. Karl was awesome. I don't mean that in the colloquial sense, I mean that he inspired awe because in a game of giants, he was a colossus. Kids in big cities around the world either liked Dr. J, or Magic, or Larry Bird . . . or Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Michael Jordan. I like to be different, and Karl Malone was an original. He wasn't a product of cumulative development. Heck, dude was a great fit for me because I pretty much hate anything that's "popular". Everyone else asked mom and dad for Jordans, and I proudly wore L.A. Gear Catapults (I had more than one pair back in my bball playing days in school).

  • John Stockton -- Stockton wasn't a beast like Karl, but he was a straight up assassin. If you got in a fight with Karl Malone he'd bust you up and you'd be hurt real bad for a long time. But I truly believe that if you got in a fight with John Stockton, you wouldn't survive. He was tough, super competitive, and absolutely precision oriented. He wasn't 6'9 nor a gifted athlete. But he worked his butt off and he dominated because for every hour on the court, you know he spent at least 20 working by himself in the off-season. He's the operant conditioning role model because he ended up being able to make pin-point bounce passes with one hand, off the dribble, and change the angle of the bounce so that he could hit any guy cutting into the lane. It wouldn't be the same bounce pass for Mark Eaton as it would be for Jeff Malone. He achieved mastery because of experience and diligence. And like I said, he would kill you if you got in a fight with him. In the battles they fought, Karl was the tank, but Stockton was a Navy Seal. No extra effort, flourishes, or emotions. Just cold, quiet, execution.
  • Andrei Kirilenko -- What? Why is he so high on this list? Well, this isn't a list based on rank, just based on how I type it up. AK-47 had a big contract, didn't work out hard to get stronger or add new parts to his game in the off-season as much as we liked, and got hurt a lot. He's also a freaking small forward who lead the league in blocks a few times, defended everyone from Steve Nash to Dirk Nowitzki, and made clutch baskets when he was called upon. He also did things no one else in Jazz history did, and I'm not just talking about 5x5s or having a mohawk. Andrei was the face of the franchise and as an All-Star almost took the team to the playoffs. He's a divisive player and I think it's unfortunate that he didn't play more games for us when he was here. But he was a delight to watch and was that singular bridge between Stockton and Malone to the Deron Williams era. Andrei also used to say the craziest things in interviews. He's probably also on the list of Top 5 All-Time Jazz Nicknames.
  • "Pistol" Pete Maravich -- This is a no-brainer. I only watched videos of him playing in college and the NBA, he retired in 1980 which was before I started following the NBA. While I only watched videos of him, his play was epoch changing. He did not invent a lot of the moves he used, but he linked those moves together and made music on the court. He'd lulled defenses to sleep by the pedal point of his dribbles, then syncopate into a cross over, get by his man, and either find the best shot with staccato head and ball fakes, or trade off and find the right guy at the right moment. He played basketball. But he also played the guys guarding him. More than anyone else he was the Jazz. The counter culture sound that the poor laborers and children of rich people all wanted to be a part of.
  • Mehmet Okur -- How can you not love Memo? He was super clutch. He hated Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. He played Yao Ming one on one in that 7 game series and kept him to -3 ppg from his season avg against the Jazz that year. He played hurt. He sacrificed future years from his career to help us get better playoff position. A lot of us still remember him falling down against the Denver Nuggets back in 2010. A number of people forget that while he didn't even finish the first quarter of action, he was on his way to having a killer game -- he had 7 points, did not miss a shot, and had 2 rebounds. He was schooling guys. Memo was a one time All-Star and was one of the best team players we ever had. Pair Memo with Stockton and Malone and the Jazz have at least three titles. For the first time in my life the Jazz started to play 5 on 5 on offense, and it was because of the Money Man. Al Jefferson has career averages with the Jazz of 18.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg, but did not play defense. Mark Eaton blocked a ton of shots, but has career averages of 7.9 rpg. Memo? He's at 15.3 and 7.6. He also added floor spacing, clutch performances on both ends of the court (remember his game winning block on Richard Jefferson in the open court?). And he's just so darn loveable and loves Jazz fans.

Bonus 6th Man:

  • Jeff Hornacek -- I'm cheating here, but I can't make a list of my favorite Jazz players and not have space for Horny. Horny for like one half of a season became my second favorite Jazz player for a bit while I temporarily forgot how awesome John Stockton is. That's how good Horny was with us -- he was sometimes our second best player on the court, when he shared the court with two Hall of Famers. (Sometimes he was better than Malone, other times Stockton depending on the matchup and who was or was not playing with an injury) Jeff was the guy we needed to get over the hump, and a perfect compliment to John and Karl. He rarely missed, and he took some really difficult shots in Utah. He sublimated his game to be the #3 guy, but he was a former All-Star who was averaging 19 / 7 / 4 / 2 in Philly the year before he joined the Jazz. He was a damn great player for a while, and while his body prevented him from being at his best over his last few seasons, he was still remarkable. He shot 49.2 / 47.8 / 95.0 in his last year here. If you round that up he shot 50 / 50 / 100. Yeah. That's what you call a "shooting guard".

Sorry man, no Big Al love here. He's probably a Top 15 Jazz man for sure, it's a toss up between him and Carlos Boozer for one of those last spots.

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Amare,

Hey man, our end of game plays did not look so hot. A lot of you SLCDunkers complained about Ty all season long. Out of time outs we still got things like Mo Williams hitting game winners. What's not to like? If you are so smart what would YOU have done?

~ Vlad

Word up Vlad,

I like game winners, and isolation plays (be it for Mo or Al) rely on them to make a great one or one move while making the other four guys on the court absolutely useless. It's not specifically team ball, but sometimes you don't have a full clock to set up a play. In some situations you just HAVE to go #MOLO, however, time permitting, I think we could have done more with what we have. (Scott Brooks is also really crappy setting up plays out of time outs, they usually end up posting up either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook 40 ft from the basket and inbounding the ball directly to them) One thing that I like is that if you a running a "must score" play you have to have legit options out there on the floor. By designing a clear out for Mo or Al there are no options, and the defense knows this too. So if the defense makes life difficult for you, the play breaks down, no one else is even close to the ball handler to save him, and the clock is ticking.

In order to have legit options you have to at least draw up a play that has movement.

The other part of good "gotta score now" plays deals with the players. Having legit options is great, but only if you have guys who are legit options on the court. Furthermore, you have to put guys in a situation where they are being used to their strengths.

The last part is execution.That's the hard part.

So what's my play? Well the guys on the court for a last play of the game situation for me are: Jamaal Tinsley (1), Mo Williams (2), Gordon Hayward (3), Marvin Williams (4), and Al Jefferson (5). Depending on fouls or hot shooting or whatever you could find a way to put Randy Foye (2, 3) out there, or Paul Millsap (4).

Sd_1_-_play_00_medium

The inbounder is Mo, and the first target is Jamaal. Secondary target is Gordon. Pre-inbound action would be Marvin setting a screen for Gordon so he can rub off and make himself available if Mo can't get the ball into Jamaal. Jamaal, an old pro knows how to position himself to receive an inbounds pass. He's been doing it for 20+ years. So he doesn't need a screen. The screen for Gordo is a ruse and the D may overplay it and think he's the primary target in the inbound -- which should also help Jamaal get himself set up for the pass.

Sd_1_-_play_01_medium

The zone where the play starts would be about 3 feet from the three point line, most likely about 5 - 8 feet from the sideline. The plan is for Jamaal to get the ball there.

Sd_1_-_play_02_medium

As soon as Mo gets the pass in to Jamaal, he runs like hell through a Gordon screen at the three point line, and then a Marvin screen on the left block. (If this play starts on the left sideline) (And yes, Big Al isn't on the left block, and the world didn't end.) While Mo is running to the baseline / sideline opposite corner three range Big Al comes up and sets a screen for Jamaal. And this is where the fun begins.

Sd_1_-_play_03_medium

Situation: All of the picks are set, and the plays off off without a hitch

Sd_1_-_play_04_a_medium

If Mo gets the double screen and runs baseline and gets free on the other side he should be open, or have the opposing SF on him. If Big Al sets a good screen then Jamaal should be able to move onto the other side of the court. Because of the second screen for Mo meant that the opposing four had to step out a bit, Marvin (4) should also have the inside position near the basket. This means the 3 man is the only guy who is in the paint / protecting the rim for the other side. Again, this is the hypothetical situation where everything goes right. Jamaal can dribble up and pass off the ball to Mo who is either open or super-duper open for a jumper (from 2 or 3 depending on the situation). Or he can catch the ball and go MOLO, but at least this time we have a miss match and got the rest of the team involved. Here he gets the ball almost exactly where he shot the ball from against Danny Green and the San Antonio Spurs earlier on in the year. But instead of having the defense in his grill, he should be open. This is an easier shot for sure.

Situation: Only the Picks for Jamaal is set well, and Mo is totally covered

Sd_1_-_play_04_b_medium

This means the opposing three can then switch and cover Mo. This means Mo isn't open, but I'm sure you could still get him the ball if you wanted to go #MOLO, but if he pins himself to the corner there's a lot of open space on the floor now. With the good screen Jamaal has a few options -- he can dribble and shoot a midrange jumper (not optimal), he can drive to the basket (maybe this play would be better off with someone other than Jamaal running it?), or he can make the smart pass due to his court vision and get the ball into Marvin near the basket because the four overplayed the double screen to star this play? Yeah, this is why we have Jamaal as the ball handler here instead of Hayward, Burks, Foye, or Mo. Jamaal isn't a threat to pull up so he's either going to go to the basket if the screen is really good, or make the quick pass to Marvin. Maybe Jamaal is super slow, and the pass in not there? His PG instincts switch on and he drives anyway, collects the defending 3 (Mo's guy now), and drives and dishes to him, or dumps it off to Marvin if the 4 slides over. This is a less optimal option than an open Mo shot, or Mo with room to make a move, but the play doesn't die if the first option is taken away.

Situation: The Screen for Mo isn't there, Marvin didn't beat his man, and the defense defends the P&R well

Sd_1_-_play_04_c_medium

Yep. The opposing PG and C beat our pick and roll attempt for Jamaal at the top of the arc, and Mo is all bottled up. That's fine. This is the real reason why I have Jamaal in at crunch time and not have Randy or Mo handle the ball. Why? Because I don't trust our ability to set screens, especially not Big Al. So that's fine. Jamaal is about to pick up his dribble with the 1 and 5 guy on him, but he is capable of making that left handed bounce pass to Big Al who spots up from midrange. I hate this shot for him, but he is making it at times if he is feeling it. In the case where the clock is ticking it would be a great time to test how clutch he is. If there is enough time he could either do a dribble hand-off with Gordon (3) or dump it down to Marvin (4). (This is in the case that the opposing coach puts in a 3 to stay with Marvin, and Marvin can go into beast mode on the low block, and underrated talent he has that he never got to show this last year because of Big Al)

Situation: The defending PG slips the screen, and the entire right side is on lockdown

Sd_1_-_play_05_medium

A-ha! This is where the play breaks down right? Well, no. Jamaal reverses the ball over to Gordon. Gordon is 6'8 and being defended by a shooting guard -- if Marvin did get the inside position on his man after the first or second screen he sets then all Gordon has to do is make a lead pass to the rim and Marvin throws it down for the game winner, or sends it to OT. Simple. The defense stopped our first and second option, but we didn't panic, moved the ball around, and actually got the easiest basket of the game.

Situation: Nope. Marvin didn't beat his man, and the RT side is a big mess.

Sd_1_-_play_06_medium

The team's collective jimmies should remain unrustled. Gordon has the ball in his hands, and Marvin is at the low block, and defended. If Marvin has the advantage (say the opposing coach has a 3 on him, or through all the confusion to start the play there's a switch or miss match) Gordon can just dump it down to him. I'm okay with Marvin taking that "last shot" because he's quick enough to get to the rim on any 4, and big enough to back down almost all non- LeBron James 3s. (Btw, this play doesn't work against LeBron James. I guess I should have brought that up earlier) But that whole mess to Marvin isn't even the first option at this point. Big Al (5) and Jamaal (1) clear out for the 3 / 4 pick and roll -- but come out and do another double screen for Mo (2), as he moves up to the top of the arc. This is where we get the offensive foul to end the game and Coach Amar gets fired. Or, alternatively, all eyes are on Hayward and no one cares about off the ball stuff.

Sd_1_-_play_07_medium

Yes. Gordon gets a super quick pick from Marvin (it's a NFL bump and run really) while he bugs out to the left corner and spots up while Gordon draws the defense (defending 2 and 4) and gets him an open shot. Or if the PF runs to keep up with Marvin, then Gordon can drive to the rim. OR, if none of that is happening, the Pick and Roll/Fade allows for at the very least Gordon to penetrate then kick it out to Mo who got the double screen. The clock is ticking. There's hardly any time -- so this is either a catch and shoot for Marvin or Mo. But if it's a full 24 on the clock (say we elect to run this play out of a time out with 31 seconds on the clock or something out of a Time Out), then we have time for just one more sequence.

Sd_1_-_play_08_medium

Okay, Mo gets it, passes it to Jamaal who then passes it inside to Big Al on the RT block. There is probably only about 3 seconds on the clock when he gets the ball on the "wrong" side. It's not. He's just dumb. First of all, for the Jazz to even have to be in this situation means that the defense wasn't thwarted by all our picks, Mo didn't get open, Big Al didn't set a good screen allowing Jamaal to drive, Marvin didn't seal his man, Gordon didn't penetrate well, the power forward ran with Marvin, and Mo wasn't open for the SECOND time on the same play.

All Big Al has to do is get the ball in his Wheezie range, turn/face up/pivot off his left leg, and attack the basket. No reverse off pivot, no head fake. Just catch the ball, and make a move. The clock is ticking, there is bound to have been a few defensive switches. Catch the ball. Make a move. Win the game by either getting fouled, or imagine finishing the play by going bank with his right hand from 4 ft out, or finishing the play with his left hand with a hook. (Remember when 9 year veterans had the ability to perform post moves with both hands?)

This play requires everyone to know what they are doing, and requires execution. But a failure in execution doesn't end the play. There are a number of times where the safety blanked of an isolation can happen -- but the main point is to keep probing the defense and using teamwork to get open looks.

The more passes you make the greater chance someone messes up. This is the main benefit of Iso ball. And while this play attempts to put everyone in their best spots (Marvin either posting up a smaller guy who flashing out to get open, Mo getting the ball with space, Jamaal being able to make a decision and using his passing ability, Big Al to get the spot up midrange jumper he's shooting 500 times a day, Gordon the ability to go full on Butler triple threat) -- this play may not have worked all the time.

The plays we did run out of time outs didn't seem to work all the time either.

Is this play better? Well, maybe this play isn't perfect for our team, but I think it is superior to Iso ball -- while also still allowing for Iso options. If you take Jamaal out and put Mo there, and bring in Randy to take Mo's spot you have a guy who has a super quick release and more experience running through screens -- while also getting the ball into Mo's hands earlier. In the first bit if Al sets the screen Jamaal could turn the corner, then either drive or pass. Mo would also be able to pull up. If you replaced Marvin with Millsap then you could have gone to a post up option earlier. Heck, if you replaced Jamaal with Alec Burks then he could have turned the corner off the pick and gone to the basket and finished with contact. (He wouldn't be able to make that left handed bounce pass though that Jamaal could) The varieties of things that can happen in this play increase when you recognize that sometimes the defense is going to switch everything, or not. In that case Gordon could be guarded by the four, while Marvin is guarded by the two.

I'm not a professional head coach, but I do have coaching experience with little kids. Provided our professionals have the same attention span as kids I think it's not hard to diagram a play that takes 20+ seconds to run.

Oh, btw, this play kills it with the younger guys and Foye running it. Remember that magical three guard lineup that we used when Mo was out? Yeah, Enes setting the screens at the top and setting up for a spot up jumper (or just catching the ball with 3 seconds left on the clock and he's 4 ft from the basket)? Randy getting open twice on the same play? Having an open passing lane to Derrick Favors because he does know how to seal his man (after Mailman coaching)? Or Gordon going G-Time because he knows he's allowed to be The Man on the floor when Big Al, Sap, and Mo aren't on it?

Yeah. I like this play.

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Emir,

Howd you go to the NBA Draft Combine? Is it open for everyone? I live in Chicago. Did they also have lunch there?

~Abdul Z.

The Combine was all about planning and knowing the right people. We've established ourselves as a legit NBA Blog in terms of content over the last three years, and we're attached to SB Nation. SB nation has been winning all kinds of crazy awards. They are an up and coming, or rising star in the sports media world. And we're an NBA blog on the rise. I sent in all the info to my superiors, and they got us in with the NBA. My main contact was Michael P. who is a PR guy for the NBA head offices in New York. He's a super chill dude who was super easy to communicate with. The process for us was streamlined because we worked our way up into this situation. The NBA turns down people for events all the time. We were there representing SB Nation.com, and not specifically SLC Dunk.com.

It's a closed event and you have to get screened through for entrance. The security / ID thing was a big enough deal that we actually had to drive from Chicago to Lafayette in the middle of the night to get Mychal's wallet that he left in his car. They wouldn't have let him in without it. That said, if you know the right people you can get in without a media pass. Many former players / current players / and some hangers on came in on the second day and just hung out. James Posey brought in Sharone Wright one day. I don't think any of them have anything to do in the NBA right now. (Sharone lied to me and told me his name was "Tony")

There is no lunch, but there is a big cooler they bring out with cans of Coke and Diet Coke, and bottled water. I really don't know if it was free or not, but we didn't pay for any of that. The Hotel we stayed at had cans of Coke for like $5, and the bottled water was $4.50. So, yeah, we left the gym with our pockets filled each afternoon. There was no food there, but there was this one boom mic operator for NBA TV who looked absolutely delicious. Wait, what are we talking about? Sorry. Mychal and I survived on one deep dish pizza for two days.

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Yo Omar,

Why don't you live in Utah? Then you can watch Jazz games in person! Do you even get to see games live?

~Emersyn F.

I don't have a legit reason not to live in Utah beyond the fact that if I moved there I would have no job. I would need a legit reason beyond just being a sports fan to move two time zones over. I've seen a lot of Jazz road games, in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Indiana, Toronto, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. Oh, and Detroit. I used to go to a few every year (in driving distance from Detroit), but I've tapered off since the lockout. The NBA did the fans wrong, and I don't think they've made up for it yet.

I do plan on visiting the Salt Lake Valley at some point and catch a few games and meet all you cool people in person. One day . . .

.

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Dear Al L. Thatamar,

Basketball is lifetime problems solve Dsolved 100% satisfaction energy pills excite NBA MLB NFL NHL NASCAR f.nde out now How to succeed rapid weightloss and make her howl MIAMI HAET Kia Dunk Hard ???

~Scarett Cameron Jolie Halle Longoria

I . . . uh . . . thank you. Thank you? I think. (psst, e-mail me back about those pills!)

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Okay everyone, this is it for now. Post below your questions or tweet at me, or whatever -- next week I'll try to answer 5. Be sure to know that I'm not going to be the one answering the mailbag every week -- and you can ask specific questions to specific writers too!

Have a great week!

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